The first thing you notice about Lima’s Barranco district is the colours – from brightly painted colonial mansions to manicured parks and elaborate street art covering the sides of buildings or cheering-up the underpasses of bridges – the city is alive. Situated atop grassy cliffs overlooking the Pacific, Barranco used to be a summer getaway for Lima’s aristocracy in the late 19th century. But after a slew of bad governments in the 1960s, the bustling neighbourhood fell into a state of disrepair and quickly became known for high crime rates and squatters, rather than for its many promenades.
In the past two decades, artists began flocking to the area, giving it a surge of energy and passion. Galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and penas (traditional Peruvian music venues) began popping up. The government noticed the resurgence and went on to restore public spaces to their previous glory. Today, Barranco is a mix of bohemian and chic, the perfect place to sip Peruvian coffees by day and pisco sours by night.
Built in the style of the Belle Époque, this majestic white mansion is a two-minute walk from the ocean and served as a private retreat before it was abandoned in the 1900s. Several years ago a group, including a family of art collectors, bought it and with the help of sculptors and craftsmen, meticulously restored the building inside and out.
As soon as you enter, the attention to detail is evident. The stately lobby is a mix of Old World charm and contemporary elegance and you’re greeted with a glass of bubbly at check-in. In a neighbourhood dotted with galleries, the hotel is one itself, with carefully chosen paintings and sculptures on display in every corner, all made by local artists.
Hotel B features 17 spacious rooms with plush beds, chocolate-coloured wooden floors and high ceilings. Ours had a Juliet balcony overlooking the street and a large glass shower in the centre with a marble bench and built-in steamer, a perfect way to relax after a long flight.
Every morning, breakfast is served in an English-style sitting room with dark-green walls, banquettes and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books. The room opens onto a white terrace where you can order off the menu or help yourself to the breakfast buffet inside. Afternoon tea, or el lonche as it’s called in Peru, is also served there. The tradition stems from the British influence during the 19th century and is still very popular in Lima. Between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the hotel there’s an elaborate spread of delicious sweet or savoury finger foods accompanied by an array of teas, all complimentary for guests.
The bar, next to the lobby, mixes great pisco sours – Peru’s national cocktail made from a grape-based brandy – and is a perfect spot to start or end your night. Saenz Pena 204, Barranco; rooms from $350 (Canadian).
Eat & drink
Opened in the fifties by a descendant of Italian immigrants, this retro café and roaster uses Peruvian beans to make lattes and cold-brew coffee. Antique grinders are mounted on the wall and the back patio is covered in flowers. It’s the perfect spot to grab a sandwich or a slice of carrot cake. Make sure to check the events calendar as the café often hosts intimate concerts in the garden. Av. Pedro de Osma 116, Barranco.
Isolina Taberna Peruana
This local hot spot feels like a lively dinner party. The two-storey space is rustic and warm, and all the dishes are made for sharing. The food is traditional Peruvian with a modern twist, everything from ceviche tossed with giant corn kernels, lime and sweet potato to pork crackling paired with chicha morada, a spiced purple-corn drink – a Peruvian staple. Av. San Martin 101, Barranco.
Walk up one of two spiral staircases and you enter a 19th-century mansion where every room has its own style. The bar is known for its long list of cocktails and happy-hour specials. Even if loud venues aren’t your thing, it’s easy to find a quiet corner to people-watch. San Martin 130, Barranco.
One of many galleries in Barranco, this one is devoted to the work of Lima-born celebrity photographer Mario Testino. Alongside his elaborate fashion-magazine spreads of Rihanna or Beyoncé, you’ll see some of the portraits he did for the Royal Family, including the famous candid photos he took of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Av. Pedro de Osma 409, Barranco.
Parque Federico Villarreal
A must. Historically known for the small wooden Puente de los Suspiros, or bridge of sighs, it’s now filled with street art and iron sculptures. The pedestrian laneways are filled with restaurants, bars and eclectic shops, making it a great spot for a day or night visit. Jiron Mariscal Jose Antonio de Sucre 405, Barranco.
La Noche de Barranco
It’s basically an institution. Locals call it a culture bar because it schedules concerts, parties, plays and stand-up comedy. It serves traditional Spanish tapas with a Peruvian flair. There’s a huge selection of beer or concoct your own chilcano – a pisco-based cocktail; flavours include chili pepper and coca leaf. Sanchez Carrion 199, Barranco.
Bajada de los Banos
It’s the pathway used to get to the beach from Parque Federico Villarreal. During the day it’s a great place to haggle for handmade souvenirs and a hot spot for surfers – Lima is world-renowned for its waves. At night, its lookout point is a romantic spot where locals watch the sunset. Bajada de Banos, Barranco 15063.
The writer was a guest of Hotel B in Lima. It did not approve or review this article.